American Express Foreign Transaction Fee?

Posted by CreditCardGuru

american express logoQ: What is the foreign transaction fee on American Express cards? I will be traveling internationally more and would like to minimize or avoid this fee if at all possible.

A: If you travel internationally, you definitely have to keep an eye on those credit card foreign transaction fees. They can vary greatly depending upon who issues the card.

The standard American Express foreign transaction fee is 2.7% and here’s how it compares to other major issuers in 2013, arranged from least expensive to most expensive:

  • Capital One – none
  • Discover – none
  • American Express – 2.7% fee (except for the $450 Platinum Card which has no fee)
  • Chase – 3% fee
  • Citi – 3% fee
  • Bank of America/FIA Card Services – 3% fee
  • Barclaycard/Juniper – 3% fee
  • HSBC – 3% fee
  • Wells Fargo – 3% fee
  • US Bank – 3% fee

As you can see, the American Express fee is slightly lower than average. If you only travel internationally once a year it’s probably not worth hassling with another credit card. However if travel abroad on a frequent basis, then chucking over those 2-3% fees will add up fast. Think about… spending $10,000 per year would mean $270 in currency fees.

The good news is there are several cards that charge no foreign transaction fees whatsoever. Go here to see the current list of cards with no currency fees.

Editorial Disclosure: The editorial content on this page is not provided by any bank, credit card issuer, airline or hotel chain, and has not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities. Opinions expressed here are author's alone, not those of the bank, credit card issuer, airline or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

19 comments... read them below or add your own

  1. JMK_tx July 8, 2014 at 1:41PM

    re: Fidelity AMEX card (foreign Transaction Fee)

    Does anyone have experience to contradict the following?

    …I just spoke with FIA Card services re: Fidelity AMEX card.

    1% Fee (commission?) if purchase is in foreign currency (conversion).
    0% FEE if “foreign purchase” is transacted in ” $USD ”

    btw: I will be travelling to Costa Rica where “reportedly” $USD is widely accepted.

  2. Bruce Nelson December 8, 2013 at 10:20AM

    Here’s another grab to look out for. PayPal buries the fact that you have an option to pay in the foreign currency or use their exchange rate and pay in your home currency. No one should be surprised to know that the Paypal rate is less favorable (they even warn you to use theirs rather than “be surprised”). Example: Booked an apartment in Bangkok with a 47.29GBP (the owner is British) rate. PayPal wanted to charge me $79.29; I didn’t buy it and switched to the foreign currency. The Capitol One charge showed up as $77.51, thus PayPal was charging 2.25% for absolutely nothing. I suppose if you only had an AMEX card, it might be worth using the PayPal conversion, but otherwise it’s a rip off.

  3. Marci August 27, 2013 at 7:01PM

    If you are a member of USAA and have their charge card, the transaction fee is 1%. Much better than 3%.

  4. No Fee Frank July 30, 2013 at 6:04PM

    Have been using Capital One card since out of the USA beginning 2011. No foreign transaction fee, get a fair, competitive exchange rate, and no hassles. Just have to notify them every three months that you are using the card in whatever country you are in. Although my spouse and I have AMEX, we only use it if we are purchasing from a truly American-based company in order to avoid their usurious fees.

  5. Art July 20, 2013 at 10:24PM

    Don’t just look at the fee. Some of the lower/no fee cards have less favorable exchange rates. They get paid one way or the other.

  6. Teddy C July 12, 2013 at 8:32PM

    Love my AmEx Blue card in general – good rewards and awesome service – but this fee is too high for international transactions. Shop around and you can definitely find something better. Bank of America has a couple of cards with no foreign transactions fees and rewards that are about as good as those for AmEx cards. So does CapOne. And you may also want to get a card with a chip b/c those are widely used in Europe.

  7. Collin July 5, 2013 at 7:23AM

    Discover card is good for travel with no overseas fees; but acceptance is a bit limited. Capitalone Visa is the best.
    Because of merchant’s concerns about fraud problems it is also best to have a debit card, as a back up.(Overseas mechants consider debit card transactions to be final, while credit card trensactions can be reversed.)

  8. billy June 10, 2013 at 3:19PM

    I just got the pleasure of pay a 295.00 fee.. for a large purchase…. So I recommend – to use your debit card.. I used my wells fargo debit card and was not charged a fee..

  9. Dave March 4, 2013 at 4:15PM

    Discover does not have a foreign transaction fee. Per their site FAQ:
    “Will I be charged a transaction fee when I make a purchase in a foreign currency using my Discover Card?
    No, Discover does not charge a foreign currency transaction fee.”

  10. Hugh October 2, 2012 at 4:42PM

    Amex started this about 2 years ago. It is BS! They already get a fee of 4-8% from the vendor you are buying that product or service from. Guess they put the ‘fee’ in place for just one reason BECAUSE THEY COULD!!! Funny that they do not charge it on the wife’s Corporate Gold Card….

    • Dan January 23, 2013 at 12:26PM

      Wrong… It’s between 2.3-3.5%.

  11. Jetset May 18, 2012 at 6:18AM

    I would disagree with Brian. Sure, you as a consumer have the obligation to do your homework and know about the card in advance — which may include reading the credit card agreement. But businesses also have an ethical obligation to do “good” business — such as providing a “plain english” summary of pertinent contract language, not charging exorbitant fees and using “weasel language” to increase the scope of the fees.

  12. askmrlee April 9, 2012 at 11:40PM

    @Brian – at least I read the credit card agreement. American Express issued Amex cards used to charge this fee only when there was an actual foreign currency conversion until about one or two years ago. Ever since the Visa and MasterCard associations changed from “foreign currency conversion” fees to “foreign transaction” fee, it seems like American Express did this over the last year or two and now people are getting surprise charges when they buy USD tickets online for Legoland California just because the park operator is British.

    Some other options to minimize or eliminate this fee include are Fidelity Amex Rewards issued by FIA Card Services – 1% on foreign currency conversions only and Discover Card (0%) if accepted and Capital One.

    • mike April 7, 2013 at 3:55PM

      FIA is Bank of America – it is the name given when they acquired MBNA

  13. Dave March 29, 2012 at 6:51AM

    Capitol One does not charge a foreign transaction fee.

  14. toto February 7, 2012 at 11:43AM

    AmEx is lame…will try Capital One

  15. Henri December 10, 2011 at 1:54PM

    Got to love these guys. Just got back from a trip and had these fees on my statement. Credit union here I come.

  16. Russell August 10, 2011 at 3:46PM

    This fee is BS. What a greedy grab by Amex. Canceled my card today because of it.

    • Brian Cantwell February 29, 2012 at 3:31PM

      Don’t you read the credit card agreement before signing up for a card? Let alone use a card. Foreign trans. fees are clearly stipulated in each credit agreement. Why did you sign up if you were unwilling to pay a price for convenience? Not to forget ding your credit score a bit. Amex is by far the best card one can have.

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